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Weekend Sip: Review: Mimosa-flavored hard cider, anyone? Why the apple-based beverage is being transformed into a brunch drink

The cans

Woodchuck Hard Cider Brunch Box 12-pack, $18.99

The back story

When is a hard cider more like a morning cocktail? When it’s flavored to taste exactly that.

Woodchuck Hard Cider, the Vermont-based brand that’s been around since 1991, recently rolled out its Brunch Box, which features what it bills as four “innovative” ciders: Mimosa, Paloma, Bellini and Pearsecco (the latter is like Prosecco, but with, well, pears). It might all seem like an April Fool’s Day joke, but we promise these sips are for real.

Actually, flavored hard cider has been around for a few years. Other brands have staked their claim in the subcategory: Austin Eastciders offers everything from peach to pineapple varieties, while Angry Orchard has tropical and strawberry versions. Woodchuck itself has been making flavored ciders for more than a decade, says Bridget Blacklock, chief commercial officer for Woodchuck parent Vermont Cider Co.

There’s no secret why cider companies are going this route: It’s about attracting more drinkers to the fold. Though cider has had its high moments in the American market, it has never quite broken through the way, say, hard seltzer has. Hard cider sales declined by 2.4% over the past year to around $490 million, according to a recent industry report. Moreover, hard cider, which is often grouped with beer as part of a broader market of beverages, saw its share of this beer and beer-like category dip from 6.4% to 4.3% from 2018 to 2021.

Blacklock says the Brunch Box is very much aimed at the 21-to-35 age group — in other words pretty much the same demographic that’s sipping hard seltzer and is looking for new and intriguing beverages. She also says it’s a group very much abut brunch. “We want to be hitting that target” segment, she says.

What we think about them

I was prepared to be cynical about all these cocktail-inspired ciders, particularly since I’m a fan of traditional hard cider — the drier, the better. But these are more in the semi-sweet than the super-sweet vein and the flavorings are not too over-the-top so they’re quite pleasing. Admittedly, they’re not the same as drinking a traditional mimosa or peach bellini, but they’re not that far off the mark, either. The ciders are also very food friendly.

How to enjoy them

You can crack open the cans and enjoy the ciders as they are, but there’s nothing stopping you from pouring them in a glass to make the occasion, be it brunch or Sunday-night pizza, a little more festive. Blacklock suggests putting the Pearsecco in a Champagne flute and adding a few blueberries — a classy presentation for sure.

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